In my last blog I looked at the Scottish Government’s new “Help out of the Hole” campaign to promote the Debt Arrangement Scheme. In particularly I looked at the wisdom of directing all offline traffic from their six week TV campaign to a new online landing page, rather than to their well-establishedwww.dasscotland.gov.uk site.

Since then, to help people out of the hole of trying to find their new landing page, the Scottish Government has launched a pay per click campaign to promote their adverts for the site every time someone searches on Google.

This would appear sensible, as there is no point launching a six week TV campaign if no-one can find the landing page that you are directing them to, particularly as the site is no longer organically ranking first on Google for the term “Help out the Hole.”

That place has now been occupied by an imitation site, as I predicted it would last week.

What is more worrying, however, is the decision to now extend the pay per click campaign to compete for terms like “Debt Arrangement Scheme”.

Why?

Well whereas “Help out of the hole” is unlikely to cost them more than a couple of pence per click, as no-one else is running such a campaign and it is a low traffic search term; “Debt Arrangement Scheme” is in contrast a high traffic search term and the Scottish Government could be paying anything from £6 to £20 per click.

The reasons for this is their quality score on Google for that term using their new landing page is likely to be quite low; whereas in contrast their score for the same term using their establishedwww.dasscotland.gov.uk site is likely to quite high, so they would pay less.

It appears clear the marketing strategy for the new campaign is to drive traffic to their new landing page, which is being used to measure the success of the campaign based on the number of visitors to the page. However, considering the page re-diverts visitors back to the www.dasscotland.gov.uk site and a pay per click campaign for that site would cost less, it must be wondered whether the campaign objectives to promote the Debt Arrangement Scheme have been hijacked by the need to show the original strategy was in fact the correct one.

Considering this will come at a cost to the public purse, would it not be wiser to admit the original strategy of directing traffic to an obscure landing page was wrong?

It also has to be questioned whether the Scottish Government running a pay per click for high search traffic terms can be justified in the first place.

Most private firms can do this as they are prepared to incur the costs in the hope conversions from applications will justify the marketing costs. The Scottish Government cannot do this and actually their objectives are different as the purpose behind their campaign is to raise public awareness of the Debt Arrangement Scheme. One must wonder whether their money would have been better spent advertising on channels like Facebook, which in Scotland has over 3 million accounts registered and the cost of diverting traffic to a new landing page from there would have been dramatically less than it will be using their pay per click campaign. Also diverting traffic from an online channel to another is significantly easier than it is diverting them from an offline channel (TV) to an online one, as it just involves one click.

My view of this campaign is I fully support the strategy of using a public information campaign to promote the Debt Arrangement Scheme. I believe, however, the tactic of diverting offline traffic from a TV campaign to an obscure online landing page was wrong, particularly as there was already a well-established government site that could have been used.

I support the use of a pay per click campaigns for the new landing page, but believe extending the campaign to bid for high traffic search terms like Debt Arrangement Scheme is fundamentally ill-conceived and will come at a cost to the public purse; even more regrettable as if the established site had been used, the costs would likely be less to the public purse. This to me is indicative that the campaign strategy is now to drive more traffic to the new landing page and shore up the flailing Help out of the Hole campaign.

I also fundamentally must question the logic behind a public information campaign becoming involved in pay per click campaigns for high traffic search terms. The Scottish Government campaign, using such tactics, can never create any more than a ripple as it is time and budget limited, whereas their competitors will be there for the rest of the year. The Scottish Government would have been wiser investing more of their marketing budget on social media channels like Facebook, which are significantly less expensive and would drive more traffic to their landing page at a lesser cost to the public purse. They would also be more effective at helping realise the objectives of the campaign, which was to raise public awareness of the Debt Arrangement Scheme.